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On a New Road

Too SoonThursday October 6, 2011
It was just a few weeks ago that everyone was writing about Steve Jobs' resignation. The implication was clear, but I had hoped he would have more time. There have been lots of articles written. The Economist wrote a particularly powerful one.

Steve was unique. Apple cannot replace him, and I don’t think that they should try. He was a messiah. Within the company there was a cultish reverence towards him. He was famously difficult to work for and unrelentingly demanding of perfection. I interviewed for jobs with him 3 times: once before he was fired, once at NeXT, and once after he returned. Each was a long lunch at The Good Earth. Each was a wonderful, intriguing conversation, but I left each thinking “no, I can’t work for this man: he’s mad!”. That visionary madness drove him and his company with a tremendous force. He was personally not an engineer or a designer, but he had a tremendous sense for excellence. Many companies use “focus groups” to help them refine products, but not Apple: they just had Steve. He was often criticized for being a “control freak”, but that was all in pursuit of excellence: anything out of his control was out of his ability to improve. He didn’t just have a sense for Apple’s products, he had a sense for Apple’s customers and what would delight them. As much as he was devoted to Apple, he was more devoted to Apple’s customers. One of the biggest drivers of Apple’s success in recent years is the delight their customers feel in every part of the process, even something as simple as opening a box is thought through carefully. Every detail matters.

So what is a Post-Steve Apple? Even though everyone there has been mentally preparing for this moment, it is still a shock. Will Apple crystalize and just repeat the playbook? That will be successful for a few years, but it will eventually veer off. They collectively need to find a new way. There won’t be a new Steve. There will certainly be apostolic claimants, but they won’t be Steve. The New Apple will have to be a collective result of Steve’s teaching to each employee individually. His pursuit of excellence will no longer be imposed - it now has to come from the hearts of everyone.

It is a new world.


Feeling like someone in the family died :'(

Posted by Mahabubul Hasan Uzzal on October 06, 2011 at 07:44 AM PDT #

James, Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. You were fortunate to have been able to meet him in person. I feel the same way about Apple potentially veering off track over time. My hopes are that the collective whole will be able to keep the train on the tracks. Thank you again. Kind Regards, Chris

Posted by Chris Danielson on October 06, 2011 at 07:51 AM PDT #

Today I moved my spare time project from my Windows laptop to Netbeans on iMac. Perhaps we will buy an iPhone soon. What Apple should do is reduce the priceyness of its products so that they are in the hands of more and more millions of people. In my opinion, that would be one way to pay tribute to the great guy who made technology look like poetry. -- Mahboob Hyderabad, India.

Posted by Mahboob on October 06, 2011 at 10:25 AM PDT #

Too Soon is right. I turned 56 this year and somehow life just doesn't seem so long any more - and I'm no Steve Jobs. Things change. We'll just have to see what tomorrow is like.

Posted by Boob on October 06, 2011 at 10:27 AM PDT #

Bye Steve, yes, like if a friend is died.

Posted by Davide Perini on October 06, 2011 at 03:17 PM PDT #

James, I am sorry for Steve's family, but i have to say this: you are an artist brother!

Posted by software development perth on October 06, 2011 at 08:49 PM PDT #

Thanks James for sharing your moments with us. still in shock . we love you steve. RIP

Posted by Jayachandran on October 07, 2011 at 05:27 AM PDT #

thanks for sharing ur nice experience with Steve....

Posted by anand gajjar on October 07, 2011 at 10:27 AM PDT #

"The thing which makes him greatest than Gates and Zuckerberg kind of entrepreneurs is "his honesty", though he may not have been the richest person of the world for years, he was definitely having a heart of gold decorated with diamonds of honesty....RIP Mr. Steve!!!!" _ a java developer (learner) from India

Posted by Amit Dwivedi on October 07, 2011 at 11:20 PM PDT #

Is this another of jag's image masterpieces or

Posted by ozogla on October 08, 2011 at 11:51 AM PDT #

Steve Jobs amazing ability was to take a complex thing, strip it down to its essence and make it even more useful and beautiful than the thing he started with. But this is what James Gosling did too, in the realm of programming languages. He took complex programming languages such as C++ and stripped it down to its essence and made it more useful and beautiful. James is the Steve Jobs of the programming world. I would like to see more from James. Jobs didn't stop after making the Mac. He also gave us iPod, iPad, iPhone, and who knows what else is still in the works. I would like to see more from James Gosling.

Posted by Apu Petilon on October 08, 2011 at 02:14 PM PDT #

Thanks for sharing James. Can you explain a little more about what you mean when you say "he's mad"? I am sure you didn't mean it in a bad way, but I am keen to understand more about Steve. Was he just too intense, or too focussed? I knewn someone (who also died young - in a plane he was flying) who was so intelligent and spoke so fast that it also scared me a little ;-) Of course, very sad to lose Steve and my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

Posted by Ashley on October 09, 2011 at 05:15 AM PDT #

RIP Steve Jobs . He was a very capable computer engineer. my dumb thought: Steve Jobs was a fan of Edison, and try to imitate him by working hard. Per me - what Edison, archemides etc did could have been redone by us(common lane man), considering world has capable people on level like RSA guys.. an average guy can rediscover the volume of sphere very easily as some constant multiplied radius^something very easily in current day (so archemides was not a great guy). Similarly many other scientists are just hit and dig cases in discovering new phenomenon. As an example, why can't people **research into some waveform apart from sinusoidal waves** that govern most atomic physics/electricity... ( Fermi and Einstein were indeed super humans).. Its time to give a break to transistor/diode/computer engineering(sub sciences of electricity), and look into mathematics + chemistry more deeply(a gamble).. millions of R&D areas open up for everyone in field of science.

Posted by anonymous on October 09, 2011 at 07:32 AM PDT #

James Gosling, is now with scala guys...I saw his name on the advisory board..Why not with Java and perhaps groovy.. We need you at this time than for the scala guys.. BTW, RIP Steve jobs

Posted by Juan on October 10, 2011 at 09:42 AM PDT #

Dear James, Lovely tribute, Steve Jobs was without doubt a visionary entrepreneur and scientist. Something I hope to be even more in the future. If only I could crack the mystery of Java. I too study computer science and I must say, despite the fact programming seems less stimulating, I can't stop trying to get the hang of it. Steve Jobs managed to break through the wilderness, too me, like you, he will remain one of many great inspirations that I have. Tragically I never had the chance to meet Steve, but I can learn of his great legacy which has given me the oppurtunity to realize - hopefully - a dream that I dream. With your creation as well, James. But with your invention I will be inventing/creating something even more accessible and challenging, If I may so, don't misunderstand, for the people in the future. I always say: "Why not" Thank you James, stay cool and hopefully one day we will meet. Sincerely me.

Posted by Selina M. Fox on October 10, 2011 at 01:50 PM PDT #

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